Kieran’s Budget Night Meeting, Cork City Council, 16 November 2016
Thanks Lord Mayor.
I would like to thank the CE and John Hallihan for their work on this draft document and the Chair of the Finance Functional Committee, Sean Martin for agreeing to long discursive evenings around savings, cuts and compromises.
One would like to think we we’re at the bottom of barrel of large scale cuts –I feel we are – however this base is very different to previous years where there were easier choices of cuts – now the landscape at the base is scraping the barrel looking for anything else we can use to balance our books.
It is quite clear that local Government not taken seriously enough by central government– the daily local government email updates offer an interesting lens at the moment to see other Councils across the country desperately trying to make ends meet on budget night.
The Putting People First project has equalled cutting people first.
It is becoming more and more clear LPT for cities such as Cork are not enough to fund Councils and their work – even if you put it up by 15 per cent. It’s not enough.
Our revenue reserves are scarily exhausted, our patience is exhausted and we are physically and mentally exhausted and frustrated.
For next year we can add another piece of Roads to the central government agenda– the maintenance programme as being dictated upon – piece by piece, the discretion decisions of cllrs has been eroded.
Is anyone fighting the case for local government in Dail Eireann? nope not really
And one could go on and on with reality and negativity and one could be right.
I am reminded as well we also need to be positive on what services we do provide.
On the positive side though reading the draft budget book, the dearth of services we provide to communities in Cork is vast.
Continued emphasis on the turn around of vacant social housing units and their return to stock is very welcome. We continue to collaborate with agencies to resolve our homelessness problems.
We continue to provide support to those aspects of building community capacity through community grants – we collaborate with agencies on community policing plans, public participation networks, Age friendly programmes, the local economic and community development plan – it is a council for all.
We do festivals well – we have seen the recent buzz this year around 1916 events, Jazz festival, and the switch-on of the Christmas lights.
We have struck very good partnerships in creating local enterprise partnerships, arts and heritage programmes, promoting science and technology; we are fully engaged in Lifelong Learning, encouraging formal and informal education. We invest 1m euros in visitors centre, events and community and arts grants.
And indeed one could say all we do well of what I have listed doesn’t really stay on the agenda as regular points – they only all appear together in draft budget books like this evening – it’s kinda like everything we do is diluted down to just housing and roads – and that is something we need to avoid – the Council is more than just two directorates.
From looking at some of the conclusions in the draft book – there are number of points sticking out – need for continued collaboration need with CBA and Cork Chamber going forward – the need to market even more business and enterprise in the city – would love to see the South Mall as a start-up incubation street. We need to promote parking in the city more – and build an alternative marketing plan to the shopping centres.
We need to build upon our tourism offering and festivals – scale two or three of them up to international standards – 30 odd festivals, which celebrate the city’s urbanity and cultural thinking
Tonight has also historical resonances or a sense of Déjà vu as well – this week one hundred years ago – city cllrs spoke at length about poverty in their Council meeting about poverty in the city and declining industry – but Trafford Engineering Co of Manchester – came to discuss their proposals for a tractor factory in what is our North Docklands and a worker’s village upon the city park racecourse to employ 2,000 adult males with a wage bill of £200,000. The cllrs of course heralded this proposal and led to its tweaking – the factory to be upon the Marina – worker’s housing never came to pass.
Cllrs heaped praise on the project – the value of it to communities, local economic development, business communities, social policy, enterprise, poverty reduction – but they couldn’t have foreseen the vast opportunities and scalability within all those concepts, all of which Fords wove together to re-imagine an ancient port city.
Fast forward to today I do think the value element and the interweaving of different elements is one we need to champion more as Ireland’s second city.